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Lady Devils topple Buffs to reach state semifinals

Tanner Cook • Mar 6, 2020 at 10:26 PM

RINER — Lights-out defense was the mantra for the Gate City girls basketball team in a stunning 53-43 upset of Region 2C champion Floyd County on Friday night inside Auburn’s Teel Gymnasium.

“This seems surreal. I couldn't be more proud of a group. They’ve worked so hard and there have been a bunch of highs and lows throughout the year,” Gate City coach Kelly Houseright said. “We had to stay focused and engaged for four quarters.”

The Lady Blue Devils — spurred by a 7-0 run to start the third quarter that built on their five-point halftime lead — advanced to Tuesday’s VHSL Class 2 semifinals against either Union or Martinsville.

The Union-Martinsville quarterfinal at Virginia-Wise was postponed until Saturday at 4 p.m.

Lady Blue Devils junior Sarah Thompson threw in 18 huge points, but Gate City’s unsung heroes were Braylin Steele and Riley Houseright. Each grabbed big offensive rebounds in the second half that led to some key buckets.

“When we started finding them when they were open, that helped because they started making those shots inside,” Coach Houseright noted. “We thought we had an advantage there and we talked about that.”

Macey Mullins finished with 12 points, Steele had eight and Houseright added seven to the winning effort.

PERIMETER DEFENSE

The Lady Buffaloes — known primarily for taking and making a large amount of 3-pointers — hit only three shots from long range despite pulling up more than 25 times.

Alexis Kiser led Floyd County with 10 points before fouling out with more than three minutes left in the game. None of her teammates joined her in double digits.

The Lady Buffs grabbed a 12-11 lead with 5:34 left in the first half, but Gate City responded with a 5-0 run to seize the advantage. After Floyd again tied the game, this time at 21, the Lady Devils countered with a 5-0 run to end the half.

LATE RUN FALLS SHORT

Gate City led by as many as 12 late, but Floyd pulled within five points, 46-41, with 3:11 remaining following some ill-advised passes by the Lady Devils.

Thompson curtailed the Lady Buffs' push by making a key bucket off an inbounds play with 2:50 left.

“We knew they were going to make that run and we had to calm down and stay focused,” Coach Houseright said. “When they trapped, we were telling (Sarah) to try to attack out of the trap. That was a big bucket for us.”

Gate City managed to close the deal despite shooting 5-for-11 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter.

“We’re probably the only people that thought we were going to be here. They’ve kept believing and kept working,” Coach Houseright said. “They’ve gotten better every day and hard work pays.”

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